My First Orthodox Pilgrimage (Part 5): Wisdom From New Friends

1:00 pm – 9:30 pm/ 12 October/ Kansas City, MO

During lunch, we had round table discussion about race and the church. Sure enough, there are some Orthodox congregations who are not receptive to black converts. One of the things that has crippled the spread of the Orthodox church was the various ethnic groups kept their faith closed and did not evangelize to others of any race. Except for St. Herman and the other Russian missionaries to Alaska in the 18th century, the church made no major effort to win converts. In 1987, the Antiochians threw the doors of Orthodoxy open to all who sought the faith. But because of traditional ethnic bonds and good old American racism, there are still some Orthodox churches that keep their doors closed to African-Americas who may want to convert.

Thank God this has not been my experience. There is not one Orthodox church that I have visited that I was not welcomed. The church I attend (when I can) is in a city with a reputation for being bigoted. But, the members are from all over Hampton Roads and various ethnic backgrounds. To me, the racial divide works both ways. I think black people need to open their minds and hearts and see that the Holy Spirit is more than just clapping and shouting in church. We need to learn that Africans originally practiced liturgical worship. Even today when Ethiopians immigrate here, they don’t go to our AME, Baptist, COGIC, or any other African-American congregation. They go to any Orthodox church they can find. And if there is enough of them in a general area to have a congregation, they form a parish.

Perhaps one of the most compelling people I have met and heard is Rodney Knott. Bro. (Dortheos) Knott directs ReEngage Services, a mentoring program to encourage men to be responsible fathers and contributors to society. He has a sense of compassion and toughness that seems to be very effective. I was blessed to be in the small group discussion with him and Fr. Deacon Nathaniel. I’d love to have those two brothers come to King William and evangelize for a week. I think they could convert almost half of the men in the county to the Orthodox Church.

Again my health was not up to par, which reeked havoc on my attention span. What I did hear of Mother Katherine Weston’s talk on “Loneliness” was very interesting. I had no idea there was no such word until the 1800’s and the industrial revolution. One thing I did write down that is worth thinking about in this time of social media meanness and isolation that she said, “Real conversation can be messy.” No doubt, there can be no true community nor church unless we are willing to have compassionate dialog.

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Actually, I was impressed with the nuns who attended the conference. These women have rejected the world’s standards of beauty of clothing, make-up, and all to live in humble simplicity. There was one younger sister, I guess mid-20’s, who could probably attract a nice young man. Yet, she has shunned human marriage for a divine, spiritual matrimony to God and the church. There is nothing like being in the presence of women monastics. They are full of wisdom and compassion.

I had been looking forward to hearing and meeting Sub Deacon Paul Abernathy.  Had he been Protestant, Paul could have started his own non-denominational church and made himself a bishop.  He could be a mega-church minister with a little time and effort.  Instead, this brother is in the Hill District of Pittsburgh “Building Community in Profound Brokenness.”  I liked what he said about not cutting ourselves away from redemptive suffering.  When we run from it, the result is fear and self hate.  When we accept it, we become one with the suffering people we serve.  I ate with him and Fr. Jerome.  I will share notes on that conversation in my final article.

Dr. Carla Thomas is a wonderful combination of brilliance and compassion.  While I am not qualified to open and run a free clinic as she did in a small town in Alabama, she does present a model for building an Orthodox community anywhere.  Meet a practical need of the people and make the prayers a part of what is done.  From her clinic, an Orthodox Church was organized.  Indeed, something similar is happening to Paul in Pittsburgh.  The goal is to bridge the faith with the needs of people.

Fr. Moses Berry uses history as a bridge.  His museum in the heart of Ozark country and traveling lectures about slavery and black communities during Jim Crow helps to break down the barriers between the races.  We tend to put up stereotypes and avoid facts.  Not Fr. Moses.  He has slave neck irons to show the pain of the brutal system and quilts that depict the fact that we are a people who (by the grace of God) constantly create something out of nothing.  I like his example.  We should talk with one another about the past in love and not accusation.

I am no night owl.  So again, I got a ride back with Mrs. Mathews and the boys.  I hope someone recorded the “Circle Wrap Up” and will post it on You Tube or Ancient Faith Radio.

Are You Sure The Holy Ghost Is Leading You?: How About Some Modesty?

This is my first installment of a series of foolishness so far out of left field that I can’t believe these people are calling themselves Christian.  I started to call it “Stupid Sola Scriptura Tricks.”  I guess I can call it a number of things.  But, what I will present with each article is a shameful representation of what happens when Christian ministers invent doctrines and practices that aren’t even in line with acceptable African-American Protestantism (yes, I am still Baptist), much less Eastern Orthodoxy.  These things may not be happening in everyone’s town or in churches you may personally know of.  But, unless we put the brakes on “do-it-yourself” doctrines, these things will eventually come to a church near you.

Let me first give credit to the video blogger Tommy Sotomayor (before he curses me out for not revealing my sources) for posting and offering commentary on this topic.  In the video of her ministry, LaTascha Emanuel is preaching wearing a dress that not only reveals far too much cleavage, it is cut low enough to expose a portion of both of her nipples. (No, I am not posting a link to the video.  This is way to unbelieveable).  Now, my Orthodox friends will immediately question the role of women as ministers.  I am not ready to get into that discussion.  But, no matter what religious tradition one comes from (Christian or not), we can all agree that a woman should dress modestly.  Mrs. Emanuel (and there is a video of her wearing this “dress” and her husband with her) is clearly NOT being modest about her body.  No, a woman need not be covered head to foot as in extremist Islamic communities.  Nor does she necessarily have to wear a robe or clergy shirt when doing the Lord’s work.  But, I think we can all agree that we all should be aware that our clothing can send the wrong signals.  Mrs. Emanuel’s message was sincere and based on the scriptures.  Had she wore something that covered her breast and I let my mind wander and fantasize about her physique that she covered up, I would have been the lustful pervert.  She is not covering up much of anything .  It’s as if she wants viewers to see her breast.  So even if her words are on the up-and-up, a man’s attention will be drawn to her body.  We aren’t supposed to lust.  And here she is presenting herself as an object to be lusted over. 

Visiting her website, “The Gospel From The Stripper’s Pole,” I guess she took a hint and took her videos down.  Yet, she has two problems.  First, whatever you post online, stays online.  Tommy Sotomayor (and you should only watch his vids if you have a high tolerance for profanity), the blogger (who doesn’t see anything wrong with it), and at least one other person on You Tube still has them up.  Her second problem is further on her website where she has a couple of photos of her that still show enough cleavage to invite a man to think wrong.  Now, we Protestants tend to interpret differently the passages of scripture that denounces women preaching.  But, since Mrs. Emanuel wants to teach the Bible, perhaps she should begin with herself from I Timothy 2:9:

in like manner also, that women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with propriety and moderation

To Mrs. Emanuel and other ladies who think it is fine to serve God dressed like that, no it is not.  How a woman dresses in her home with her husband is her business.  I don’t expect a woman to wear a winter weight sweat suit on a hot summer day at the beach or pool.  But, cover your body when you come to serve the body of Christ.  If you are posting yourself as a woman of God, dress like it.  You don’t have to dress like a nun.  Women have a plethora of styles and colors to choose from to look feminine and still cover up.  Please Christian ladies, dress accordingly.